MANSFIELD — Two entrepreneurs have launched an app meant to help Richland County shoppers find local small businesses, then take advantage of current coupons and deals.LocalLynx searches out participating businesses in the greater Mansfield area — but Shane Hostetler and Kevin Haring and an unnamed investor hope to replicate the idea at many locations around the country.Consumers can download the app, for iPhone and Android, for free. Participating businesses pay a flat monthly fee to LocalLynx for an amount that depends on the complexity of the information provided to shoppers.The LocaLynx app opens to an index of retail categories, from autos to restaurants. When the mobile phone user selects a category, logos for participating businesses appear. Clicking on a choice — for example, a restaurant — can lead to a locator map, menu, coupons or announcements on specials, information about the people running the business, and a direct call to place an order."Everything is right at my fingertips," Hostetler said.Single-use coupons can be redeemed at the business by having the customer show the phone, then clicking on a confirmation message.Businesses geographical closest to the mobile phone user's location appear most prominently, assuming they keep their location information switched on. Consumers who prefer to keep their location private can type in a ZIP code instead.The app's developers worked closely with Braintree Business Development Center as they came closer to the Sept. 1 Mansfield area launch.Braintree CEO Bob Cohen said the two local men could have gone anywhere to start their business, including Silicon Valley, but chose to remain in north central Ohio.The Mansfield area app, which loads information on participating businesses within a 30-mile radius, launched earlier this month. But they hope to begin expanding similar apps to other locations. "We're hoping to launch our first expanded market before the end of the year," involving multiple locations out of state, Hostetler said."There's probably no question that they'll get inquiries from all over the country" — including calls from entities interested in purchasing their app, Cohen said. "That will have to be a decision they will make," he said.LocaLynx hired an Ashland based coder to work on the app."Every dollar we spent, we're trying to make sure it was all local," Hostetler said. "This app is a tool to help people 'buy local.' This is about shopping local businesses and building local companies. That was our biggest primary objective, from the beginning.""Small businesses around the nation are suffering with the economy. Both of us have a heart to help people out," Haring said.The LocalLynx developers say their closest competitors may be AroundMe and Yelp — but say their app offers comprehensive, accurate information on local businesses. Most shopping apps "are gathering data from the internet, and it's not really about the business' voice. It's about gaining users," Haring said. "There's a problem with the user experience because it's almost a data dump, and it's not pretty.""It has been a two-year process of figuring out why people do not shop locally," Hostetler said. Most shoppers either weren't aware that a particular local business existed, or believed it would be more expensive to purchase goods there than it would be from a big-box store, he said. "So we created the app to help solve those problems."Hostetler, a 1996 Lexington High School graduate who returned to the area after attending Malone University, had run Family Values, a pair of direct mail local shopping magazines out of Richland and Marion counties, that started in print but later also went digital. He realized that marketing was becoming more challenging as smart phones and mobile technology became more prevalent — and began looking for a new way to find consumers under 40.He said he's committed to this area and wants to see small businesses here thrive. "I love Mansfield, and I want to see some good stuff happen here."Haring, who grew up in Mansfield and now lives in Lexington, has continued unrelated work designing children's spaces, at locations including the Loudonville library, Crawford County park district, and several locations around Texas, along with time he has spent focused on LocalLynx.The two met through an unnamed third partner, an "angel investor" both knew, who found them both separately developing apps. "He said 'you guys need to meet,'" Cohen said."It has been really fun to work on this project," Haring said.
Source: National shopping app launches first in Mansfield: Will help affiliates nationwide to take couponing to the digital age URL: http://www.mansfieldnewsjournal.com/story/money/2015/09/27/app-for-local-shopping-debuts-in-mansfield/72767790/